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Southwest Airlines’ Pilot Addressed Passengers In Spanish After An Engine Burst

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Southwest Airlines
Tomás Del Coro from Las Vegas, Nevada, USA, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

(CTN News) – A captain employed by Southwest Airlines has filed a formal grievance against the airline, alleging that he was terminated for prioritizing customer interaction over aircraft piloting during an emergency situation last year.

David Legeros was operating a Boeing 737 en route to Cancun in August 2023 when, shortly after departure from Houston Hobby Airport, an engine caught fire.

The aircraft’s right-hand engine suffered “severe damage” during the incident; however, the commander refrained from assuming control and instead deferred to the First Officer. According to court documents obtained by The Independent, Mr. Legeros discussed a return emergency landing in Houston with air traffic control.

According to the April injunction Southwest Airlines petition filed by Mr. Legeros,

The cabin passengers were “unsurprisingly terrified” upon observing the flames.

Mr. Legeros allegedly then attempted to reassure the passengers that everything was under control by conversing with them in English and Spanish, as evidenced by the court documents.

PYOK reports that he asserts the airline reprimanded him following the incident, as Southwest Airlines’ customary operating procedures mandate the captain to take command of the aircraft in the event of an emergency.

The aircraft’s potential descent to the ground could have been averted had the burning engine been disconnected in response to an unanticipated shock, according to the previous captain’s assertion that he would have assumed control of the aircraft.

The petition makes the assertion that “this story would be over had SWA (Southwest Airlines) decided to reward Mr. Legeros, or even ignore him, following his heroics, but SWA decided to punish him.”

The airline concluded, according to court documents, that Mr. Legeros “engaged in serious misconduct” subsequent to its investigation into the Flight WN307 incident.

“Mr. Legeros was forced to sign a ‘Last Chance Agreement’ with a myriad of extraordinary requirements for his’retraining program,’ instead of being immediately terminated for the sin of safely bringing a flaming aircraft to the tarmac,” the application for injunction stated.

In addition to claiming that the passengers were “heavily Hispanic,” the lawsuit alleges that management reprimanded him for speaking to them in Spanish.

“SWA has been looking to push Mr. Legeros out based on the pretense of some’serious misconduct,’ but in reality due to his status as a person of color,” according to the complaint.

Mr. Legeros was subsequently granted flight status, a designation he maintains to this day. The airline stated in January that a psychological evaluation would be conducted to ascertain his suitability for duty.

“There are few better ways to remove an obnoxious pilot than to create a medical record purporting to diagnose said pilot as insane,” according to the lawsuit filed by Mr. Legeros.

Mr. Legeros explained that he was unable to attend the initial evaluation due to his father’s hospitalization.

To fire or resign, Southwest Airlines wants him to meet with its chief pilot.

Legeros is petitioning for an injunction to prevent SWA from mandating a psychological examination and the Fitness for Duty assessment.

In light of the ongoing legal proceedings, Southwest refrained from providing a response to PYOK concerning the precise details of the lawsuit. Nevertheless, Southwest maintained its stance regarding the termination of Legaros, as confirmed in a statement delivered to the media outlet by company spokesman Lynn Lunsford.

Southwest Airlines declared in a statement, “In order to ensure the safety of our customers and employees, all pilots are expected to adhere to the established procedures and policies.” “Southwest Airlines will address any allegations in the appropriate forum and stands by its decision to terminate Mr. Legeros.”


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Alishba Waris is an independent journalist working for CTN News. She brings a wealth of experience and a keen eye for detail to her reporting. With a knack for uncovering the truth, Waris isn't afraid to ask tough questions and hold those in power accountable. Her writing is clear, concise, and cuts through the noise, delivering the facts readers need to stay informed. Waris's dedication to ethical journalism shines through in her hard-hitting yet fair coverage of important issues.

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